A Moving Experience

Apologies to everyone for my long hiatus.  Thank you to those who messaged asking if I’m OK.  The answer is I’m OK now and getting better every day.  It was a tough past year for both Martin and me, which turned grueling in April as Martin’s dementia continues to swallow his core of self.  My caregiving duties increased tremendously.  This disease is oppressive for both victim and caregiver.  

As bloggers most of us write about the positives of retirement.  We don’t write about the negatives unless they turn out to be positives.  Yet there is a sad side to aging.  One day you wake up to the unexpected.  At the risk of depressing you, truthfully, retirement is not all cookies and ice cream.  

I’m writing this from my new-to-me home in Michigan by way of a calamitous year.  I won’t bore you with a blow by blow of all that happened; just a glimpse.  Retirement is like the other parts of our lives.  Things go wrong.  People can be mean.  The best laid plans can be ripped to shreds by a disease you never heard of.  Unfulfilled expectations lead to depression, anger, a feeling of helplessness.

We built our South Carolina house for our retirement.  Open floor plan, wide doorways, solid surface floors, one story, waist high counters and more.  It was the perfect house for aging in place in a warm, sunny climate until the universe spewed a meteor in our direction.  It hit us head-on.

I tried hiring help through two different companies I vetted.  Both came highly recommended by other caregivers.  The first person hired just to clean my home took the nozzles off the bathroom faucets telling me she always cleaned those.  Next came her claim that I needed a whole house water filtration system.  No, I didn’t need to call my plumber; she just happened to have a friend who did nothing but install filtration systems.  (It’s not the filtration system, which is the scam.  It’s the exorbitant price charged.)  After removing her from my house, yes, I did need to call my plumber.  She broke the seal on all four nozzles along with the tiny little baskets designed to direct the water flow.  Nearly $500 later, new nozzles sent free of charge from Delta Faucets and reimbursement from her company, I tried a second company with similar results.  Not as costly, but, still, someone trying to take advantage of me.  

In the meantime, one morning Martin had a dangerous drop in blood pressure, passed out in the kitchen while making his latte.  Reacting to the thud I heard, I arrived to a sea of blood and milk on the kitchen floor.  He was already standing at the sink with blood drizzling down his chin.  Warning to the squeamish:  this part is graphic.  The metal latte pitcher went into his chin.  As he yelled, “No, no it’s only an itty-bitty” I dialed 911, tried to get a towel pressed to his chin to stem the bleeding and said, “It’s a BIG bitty”. Fortunately, a 6’4” fire fighter arrived within minutes and Martin followed his instructions.  After an ambulance ride to the ER, where his blood pressure dropped to 70/40, and several stitches inside and out, I thought this was the worst we would endure for the moment.

Mean people are not just strangers.  Sometimes they live on the same street.  A neighbor spread the rumor Martin didn’t have Primary Progressive Aphasia – I was making it up just to get sympathy.  (I wish it were so.) After all, who ever heard of such a disease? And he was still bicycling.  The neighbor’s rumor caused other neighbors and one contractor to treat me badly.  Of all the situations, this middle school bullying behavior by adults, most of whom are my age or close to it, was the most difficult for me.  I understand fear of dementia.  I don’t understand cruelty born of ignorance.

There’s more, lots more, but I said I wouldn’t bore you with a blow by blow account.  The wakeup call came from my doctor in May.  If it wasn’t for the stress I was under, I would be in good health.   As we all know, good health is aging’s holy grail.  I needed to find a balance for both Martin and me.  I couldn’t do anything about his disease, but I could do something about where we lived.  

 After nearly a year of listening to my oldest daughter asking us to move to Michigan to live near her, I faced facts.  Although we had loving helpful friends, we needed more.  Living in the tundra was not our idea of a great environment in which to age.  But, we spent 46 years living in the North.  We could do it again.  Reluctantly, sadly we prepared our house for sale.

Fueled by a hot sellers’ market and right pricing, mercifully, within a week our house was under contract.  Those few showings alone agitated Martin, which stressed me.  The universe was finally spreading sunshine in our direction.  Finding a house just five minutes from our daughter convinced me God’s hand was surely in this.  I won’t say hiccups didn’t occur along the way, but most situations were resolved with minimal fuss.

Then, on a late August day, with Martin, a car load of cats in carriers and a large plastic bin marked “Survival Kit” I headed north to our new home.  

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56 comments on “A Moving Experience

  1. Oh, Kathy. I’m so sorry for all you have been through and admire your strength and self-knowledge and courage. How discouraging to read about your former neighbors…..what in the world can one gain from behaving meanly? Sometimes I think about moving to a 50 plus community, but then I hear about the “condo-commandoes” and the “mean girls.” I wish you and Martin and your loving daughter the best that can be and thank you so much for letting us know. You are an inspiration!

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  2. Kathy, I’m so sorry to read about all you have experienced. It’s just unbelievable that your former neighbors behaved like they did….so childish. I wish you, Martin and your loving daughter the best that can be. thanks for letting us know.

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  3. Kathy, It is so good to hear your voice. I can hear the pain of being taken advantage of, of bullying, of facing continued decline… and it breaks my heart. (Making up dementia to get sympathy versus celebrating his fighting it by continuing to bike ride? – really?!?) Yes, retirement can bring with it some truly difficult situations. I truly hope this move (how wonderful to have a daughter who wants to help!) beings with it a stronger positive support system for you. Sending you a virtual hug. Blog when you can… bringing reality to retirement is important… to help others know it is not all cookies and ice cream (which are forbidden these days in our house – adult onset diabetes).

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  4. It’s unfortunate that you and Martin have to head back to the cold weather. Yes, caregiving is tough work and I’m a Registered Nurse. You are on duty even when you are asleep. Good luck in your new and with the relocation process. I hope the adjustment isn’t too hard on Martin.

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    • It is funny, as a complete stranger to you & your husband, I have wondered how you & your husband were. I too am sorry to hear of your plight. I’m happy you have a wonderful daughter for support. We all need that at all ages. Take good care of yourselves. Yes, we have to enjoy each day & we definitely need support from family & friends. Who knows what life will throw our way! God bless!

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  5. Thank you for update on the roller coaster ride of retirement and aging. We too have had our share of ups/downs. Nonetheless connecting with others is supportive. Your blogs are welcomed and therapeutic. Praying for you as well as your husband-to handle the unforeseen storms and rewards.

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  6. Kathy,
    I HAVE been thinking of you in your online absence. I am so deeply saddened by what you’ve had to go through but I’m relieved that you have family who will now be nearby and who will be your support. Thank you for writing to us and sharing what you can. Although you and I don’t know each other, please accept the thoughts of strength and patience and love I’m sending to you.

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  7. It sounds like you have made the best decision. I so sorry you are going through all of this. I hope you can find some silver linings. My sister had early onset Alzheimer’s in her late 50s. It is a robber of life but we try really hard to find the positives though I know it is not easy. Please allow yourself help when others offer. Keeping you, Martin and a cure for this disease in my prayers.

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  8. That is truly a lot to go through in just a few months. Moving cats in carriers alone would probably push me over the edge. Very sorry to hear your neighbors were not more supportive, but now you are back close to loved ones.

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  9. Amen, sister. And been there, doing that!! Sorry you had to experience what I call the southern passive aggressive manners. There ARE cultural differences between north and south. Mean people can be found everywhere and usually when you need it least – even (or especially) within one’s own family. The kick is when you think you’ve settled for the last time and find out it’s not over by a long shot. I wish you well in your artic climate and pray for a smooth transition for you.

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  10. Beloved Kathy, I wish you had reached out for some “I’ve gotta complain” time. I had no idea of the intense stress from outside forces.
    I love your blog. More than your blog, I admire you and the journey life has suddenly taken you. We need to talk. The hired hands and ugly neighbors ought to be ashamed of themselves. I do believe in kharma.🌷

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  11. I’m so sorry Kathy for all you’ve been through these past months. I have been following you for years and know how much you loved your home in SC and spending your golden years there. Thank God you are blessed with a loving family that can help you.

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  12. Dear Kathy, Thank you for sharing this story and your vulnerability, as always. What I will offer you is the hope that this move will continue to support your dear husband in his journey and that the people around you will make sure that you are also caring for yourself during this time. I recently started working with Kristin Neff’s work on self-compassion and have found it very helpful in dealing with “life”, is which not really what we expected is it… https://self-compassion.org/ Maybe it will be helpful to you, too…
    I wasn’t sure how to post to you privately so I hope that you don’t mind me sharing here.
    Take gentle care.
    Jaki

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  13. Kathy, I’m so moved by your experience. I will look up PPA, as I fear we are heading that way. Good decision to move by your daughter. Glad you could sell your house and move on. Hard to believe people can be so uncompassionate – if that is even a word-, but on to your next season of your life. Not always what we planned or expected. I hope you can find some time for yourself. Good bless you and your family.

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  14. Kathy…
    It was so good to hear from you again. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.
    I wish you and Martin all the best in your new home. I do look forward to your posts.
    Nancy

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    • I was so lifted to see your post after checking back for so long. Shame on your neighbors!!! Kudos to you for having the bravery to relocate. Having your daughter nearby will be a real blessing! You were wise and courteous to buy a new home only 5 minutes away. May you have more physical and emotional support, along with the friendship of your daughter! Prayers!!

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  15. The lack of understanding by your former neighbors and their actions are appalling. Now that you’re safely near family I hope their proximity helps to compensate for the climate. All forms of dementia are stressful on caregivers but Primary Progressive Aphasia seems harder because it is less well known. I’ve learned of it now from two women bloggers who are/were caregivers. Thank you for sharing publicly.

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  16. Kathy, I am so sorry for what you are going through. My husband and I went through a similar journey. The stress of it at times was almost unbearable. He passed away at the young age of 70 this past summer. I still can’t wrap my brain around the fact that this is what came our way. Blogging about it was cathartic for me (www.oneoflifeslittlesurprises.blogspot.com) . I find it’s helpful to put your story into words. I was always amazed at the kindness of so many folks who responded to my written words. I feel for what you are going through. I hope you continue to write about your journey. Each one is unique, and we all learn from the sharing of our stories.

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    • Kathy,

      Sorry for all the heartache you experienced from mean-spirited paid caregivers and neighbors. None of us knows the journey we will be faced with as we age. May you and Martin be blessed with a circle of kindness in your new home. Thank you for the gift of sharing your journey with us.

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  17. Oh, Kathy – I wept as I read your update. I am so sorry for all that you have been through in the past year. Retirement is NOT all candy and ice cream for sure. It is a blessing that you were able to sell your South Carolina place quickly and find a good place in Michigan equally fast. I could not live in the South myself or accept the ignorance and cruelty that seems endemic in many southern states. My sister lives in Tennessee and each of my visits there have only confirmed my assessment. I hope that you find good medical care for Martin and respite care so that you can regularly leave the house and recharge yourself. I look forward to reading your blog again soon.
    Rin

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  18. Congrats – you faced a difficult situation and dealt with it. Enjoy your daughter. Growing older is not for cowards – best wishes – cathy

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  19. I have followed your blog for years, even messaged you a few times on Greenville and living there, you were in love with the area I know. I am so sorry the way your retirement has turned out this way, many friends and family members have faced the same thing and I helped in these situations. Helping them helped me see all the heartache, but much time was spent with their loved ones in the good times when the spouse was having a “good day” then we all had a good day!
    We now face the same dilemma leave and go where our heart wants to be , or stay to have family and help close by. I pray things improve for you and will, continue to follow your story. You probably will help many like me in making the leave or stay decision.
    You are in lovely Michigan which is much better than Ohio. We will make to trip north again this year to see your beautiful trees..

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  20. Good morning, Kathy. I was wondering when there might be a new blog post, but figured you were probably quite busy with Martin’s situation. Life has thrown you a curveball for sure, but the bullying and gossiping of your former neighbor really tugged at my “that’s not right” heartstrings! I needed to say I’m so sorry you experienced this meanness. Best of luck on your new surroundings in Michigan. Hopefully, you’ll be able to take care of yourself, regain some health, and find support with your family nearby. Best wishes, Chris

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  21. I have been following your posts for awhile. You write well and cover topics of interest to me as I approach retirement age. Thanks for sharing your struggles and the very real downside of aging with your husband’s declining health … so difficult. I am impressed with your strength. I hope it helps to know others are listening and do care.

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  22. Best of luck in your new home, Kathy. You will enjoy a beautiful Michigan fall transitioning into peaceful snowflakes. That’s something you couldn’t have in SC! Please know that you have an international fan club and forget those neighbours – unbelievable. You’re so right that life keeps on throwing us curves as long as we’re breathing. Your resilience is inspiring to others of us who also face challenges. Best to you and Martin.

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  23. I’m very sorry for all that you have been going through. Hopefully, living in the beautiful state of Michigan surrounding by loving family members will make things better. There is no excuse for meanness in adulthood. Your neighbor needs to be careful with her ugliness, as karma can be a bitch.

    Thank you for a realistic understanding of what can go wrong in retirement. You are in my thoughts and prayers. I hope things improve

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  24. Kathy, thank you for writing about this and being so honest. You’re right; retirement is not all roses and things happen whether we are prepared or not. I am so sorry about those mean people in your neighborhood. A similar thing happened to my parents when my dad became disabled and it was very hard to understand how “friends” could act like that. Sounds like you’re doing the best with what you have to deal with. Good luck.

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  25. Hi Kathy, I’ve been anxiously waiting for your blog. Sorry to hear about how awful your neighbors became and how serious Martin’s condition has become. So glad your daughter will be nearby to help. Best Wishes in your new home. Hopefully with family nearby life will feel a little easier.

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  26. I find it so sad that people tried to take advantage at this stressful period in your lives. It is such a shame that you were in the position where you had to sell your home and move but you need the support of your family while you care for your husband. I hope things go well for you

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  27. You are doing the very best you can. It’s difficult to believe people can be that thoughtless in what is already a tough situation. Let your family be that extra pillar of strength.

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  28. Excellent article, although I’m so sad you had to experience bad behavior from your SC neighbors. Kindness is everything. Kharma will be the payback.
    Glad you are near your daughter and settling in to your new home. 🌷

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  29. Please know that so many of us are thinking of you and Martin, and have been praying for you this past year ever since you shared the news of his illness. Most of us will be walking down this same road one of these days; some of us just sooner rather than later. We all need to cherish every day that we are blessed with good family, good friends, and good health. People who are not kind to those of us facing ill health will likely face their own karma-tic hell one of these days…

    I am reminded of this quote, author forgotten: “Enjoy the little things in life. Because one day, when you look back, they will have been the big things.”

    Kathy, May you continue to be blessed with lots of good little things in life.

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  30. Aging is not for sissies. It is hard – on us and our loved ones. I hope you are able to find peace in your memories of better times! I hope it gets better soon and for Martin, I pray for the best for him, whatever that is, and for you the strength to deal with it, whatever it is.

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  31. I appreciate your candor. And I’m so sorry for your circumstances, all of it. Most blogs I read, while truthful and honest, are really centered on all the positives. And let’s face it, life isn’t just one or the other. Your situation makes me pause and reflect on where and what I think I want to do (relocate to warmer climate among others). Thank you for sharing and prayers for all of you ♥️

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  32. Dear Kathy,
    I started following your blog one year before my retirement. Thank you for sharing all aspects of your journey, including this very difficult time! You’re so right, life comes with the unexpected and it continues into retirement. My husband and I have just become caregivers to our 44 year old daughter who has pancreatic cancer! Take care of yourself and know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers!

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  33. I had just thought about you the other day and wondered how you were… and here you are. Obviously you have been through a lot. I’m sorry that your and Martin’s lives have been disrupted like this but it sounds like you have made some good decisions and are now in a better place to deal with all that you are going through. You are so blessed to have a daughter who was happy to have you live closer to her. I hope you write more now and then to let us know how you are doing.

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  34. Thank you for your frank and honest update Kathy. I was a teacher for 30 years and to this day I believe that we all act as if we’re still in high school! So much meanness amongst us so called “wise ones”. That’s why it’s such a joy to meet people who live by the ethos of always being kind. I wish you both happiness and peace of mind in your new home. May you find kindness surrounding you both every day as I’m convinced it creates its own special energy .xxo

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  35. Kathy, I’m so sorry to hear about all the unnecessary stress that was added to your life by other people behaving badly, but I’m glad to hear you are now in a place where you have a stronger support system (even if it does come at the price of living in the tundra). I hope your daughter’s support will make it easier for you to find some respite time for yourself.

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  36. Oh Kathy! I feel for you and what you have gone through! I live in Australia, I am the daughter in a family where dad was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2017 and my mother is his carer – both mum and dad were in the medical field so they know very well what an Alzheimers diagnosis means. And we did the big move to all be together in a smaller country town in south-east Australia over the last 12 months. It was gruelling but now my parents live in a wonderful 2 bedroom apartment, overlooking a river, within 600m to the beach – we (my husband and I) live within an 8 minute drive and our daughter and her fiancee live halfway between us and my parents. And I stopped working in February this year to make this move – I am very glad we did. We moved from a very big city, Melbourne, to a country town of 33,000 people. I recently completed a MOOC (=Massive Open Online Course) called “Understanding Dementia” that the Wicking Centre at the University of Tasmania offers online for free and it is sobering. So whilst things are good right now – well, better than they would have been back in Melbourne with me working a demanding job full time, and living almost one hours’ drive away forom them, and them being very isolated really – I realise it will get harder and harder. We will learn how to navigate this next part of our lives. I strongly believe that living in close proximity where it is easy to spend short and frequent moments together will make for a better life. I am very grateful for your honest blog. I am not looking for rosy stories, for happy times. I am looking for how do real people negotiate these complex, difficult scenarios of growing old, of being a family, of supporting each other in our modern world. Having migrated as a teenager with my parents and siblings from the other side of the world almost half a decade ago I have little family experience to fall back on on how to navigate this part of my life. 2Thank you so much for your insights and your story. With love from Australia, Sabine

    >

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  37. Thank you for your honesty-it is very brave and helpful. As a Northern Yankee 🙂 and the adult daughter caring for elderly parents-I can promise you that the love of your daughter (and family) will keep you warmer in the winter than any climate in the Carolinas. Hope you alleviate some of the stress and get some much needed rest. Looking forward to future posts!!!!

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  38. Kathy!!

    I couldn’t grasp all you have been through the past year. My heart goes out to you.  The troubles with your husband’s health, the caregivers, the neighbors all sound so crappy, but I’m glad you came out the other side of it. I’m so glad you are near your daughter now, even though Michigan might not be your first choice. Sometimes I’d like to do that, but one daughter’s husband is in the Coast Guard and they move every 3 years, so I’m not going to follow her. The other daughter lives right outside Wash D.C. and I’d croak there. So for now, I have to be happy to see them 3-4 times a year.  Anyway, I’m glad you have family nearby to help out and give support, although I’m sad you are not in the Upstate SC anymore!

    Do you have grandchildren near?

    Renee

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  39. Hi Kathy,
    God bless you and Martin in this very difficult and sad struggle. I will add you to my prayer list.
    Telling our stories brings with it vulnerability and yet despite your negative experiences
    you continue to share with us. I think it is important to do so on many levels. It is
    therapeutic for the storyteller and those hearing the story, and I believe it helps
    us to heal and move on.
    Take care of yourself not to be strong ( you are already that ! ) but to stay strong.

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  40. Glad you are back to blogging. Glad you are back to living with less stress. Glad you are back to a place with family & support. Glad you are back.

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  41. I have been retired for over three years now. I haven’t found any gold at the end of this rainbow either. It isn’t the “happy place” I had envisioned. My mother, who was my best friend, died this past spring. Health problems have placed unwanted limitations and we are now trying to downsize, which means leaving my home of 40 years. I try to see the good in everything and everyone, but it’s becoming hard. I’m tired.
    So it saddens me to read of your ordeal, after all I joined your blog for inspiration, but I appreciate your courage and insight. You will make it through and I will do better because of your example. As always, thank you for sharing.❤️

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  42. Dear Kathy,
    Thank you for updating us, your readers.
    Wishing you & Martin strength as you move forward in your new home.
    Fondly,
    Imogene

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